Super Rugby

Eddie Jones: Super 12 was the best format

Eddie Jones (Getty)
Eddie Jones (Getty)

Cape Town - England coach Eddie Jones says the Super Rugby tournament was at its strongest when 12 teams participated.

The current 18-team format has copped heavy criticism and following a recent meeting of SANZAAR delegates in London, the expectation is that the number of teams will be reduced.

While SANZAAR have been dead quiet since that meeting, there have been strong reports that the competition will be reduced from 18 to 15 teams.

The new proposed model would see the Jaguares and Sunwolves retained, with Australia dropping one team and South Africa losing two.

However, if Jones had his way, then Australia would lose two teams.

In an interview with the Canberra Times, Jones called on Australia to go "back to the originals", insisting the Wallabies were at their best when there were three teams in Australia.

Jones also slammed speculation that the Brumbies could be axed in a competition overhaul and said instead the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels should be cut.

The Super 12 was contested between 1996 and 2005 when New Zealand had five teams, South Africa four and Australia three.

Jones coached the Brumbies from 1998 to 2001, winning the Super 12 title in his last season before becoming Wallabies coach.

"It's become too diluted. The great thing about Super Rugby when it was 'Super 12' was that it was the best players against the best players and the quality was so high,” Jones said.

"Now because there are extra teams - Argentina, Japan, Australia has five and South Africa has six - it has diluted the standard of play.

"It has definitely affected rugby's popularity. Back then anyone could beat anyone, but now there are too many games you know the result of before the kick-off.”

The thought of axing the Brumbies is “short-sighted”, Jones insists.

"The problem has been the two expansion teams, the Rebels and the Force. Unfortunately both of those teams take all of their players from Sydney, Brisbane or Canberra because they're not rugby strongholds.

"To think about axing the Brumbies... that would be cutting off your nose to spite your face."

According to the Daily Telegraph, a key SANZAAR meeting is scheduled for April 6, and while there appears to be general agreement that Super Rugby must be slimmed down to 15 sides, a current stumbling block is reportedly the South African government's backing to keep the Southern Kings involved in the competition, despite low crowds and poor performances on the field.

The Eastern Cape region boasts a strong heritage of black rugby representation and the Kings’ participation of the event is seen as a necessity.

Should South Africa decide it cannot cut two teams then the competition could remain with 18 sides in 2018.

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